High Court issues interim injunction on law expanding Ben Gvir’s power over police

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The High Court of Justice issued an interim injunction on Sunday against a controversial law granting National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir increased powers over the police, underscoring rising concerns about the politicization of law enforcement.

According to the ruling issued by Justices Uzi Vogelman, Yitzhak Amit and Yechiel Kasher, the government must respond to a petition against the legislation within 90 days. Such a ruling indicates that the court agrees in principle with the petitioners’ case against the law.

The law, passed at Ben Gvir’s behest, states that the national security minister is entitled to “direct police policy and the general principles for its operations,” including determining police priorities and operational programs, as well as general orders and instructions.

Ben Gvir contends that these privileges are essential to reinstate order in the nation’s lawless regions and combat escalating crime rates, particularly in the Arab community. However, critics argue that it would provide the minister with the authority to actively meddle in operational police activities and potentially lead to biased policing, influenced by the far-right minister’s personal political beliefs and ideology.

Following the ruling, the national security minister put out a video saying that the High Court Justices think they are “above the law” and “supreme legislators.”

The far-right politician added that the decision further shows why the government’s plan to overhaul the judiciary should be advanced immediately “in its entirety.”

Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara speaks during a conference at Haifa University, December 15, 2022. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Earlier this month, Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said that the law risks politicizing law enforcement and harming personal liberties, but she stopped short of recommending that the High Court of Justice scrap the legislation.

“The amendment to the law refers to the minister’s powers in a vague manner and doesn’t establish checks and balances that would ensure the professional independence of the police,” Baharav-Miara wrote in her official response to the petition. “There is a serious concern about extraneous influence over the use of police force and the politicization of the police.”

Baharav-Miara maintained that the legislation was passed too quickly, in a manner that was not balanced and lacks a specification that police will operate without any outside political influences.

In response to Sunday’s decision, the Movement for Quality Government in Israel said that “the High Court has issued an interim injunction against the blatant effort to turn the Israel Police into a dictatorial political arm.”

“Ben Gvir’s police powers law is on its way to the trash heap of history. This is what will happen to the rest of the laws for regime change which the government is planning.”

National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir holds a meeting at his ministry offices in Jerusalem, June 15, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Opposition leader Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party was also a side to the petition, welcomed the ruling, saying his party will “continue to fight against the lunacy of this bad government.”

Petitions against the coalition legislation were filed at the beginning of the year by several civil society groups, including the Movement for Quality Government in Israel and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, which argued that giving Ben Gvir control over “police policy and the general principles of its activity unconstitutionally infringes on the freedom of protest and freedom of expression and subordinates control over the force to a political entity.”

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